Face it, you’re a thrill seeker: How cops can find a healthy balance

We may be in the profession to help our fellow man, but the bottom line is that we’re thrill seekers, and there’s nothing wrong with that


Have you ever wondered why cops and ER nurses get along so well (you know, besides the obvious)? It’s because we have similar personality traits. We may be in the profession to help our fellow man, but the bottom line is that we’re thrill seekers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

We love — sometimes even thrive — on excitement, and a lot of times we don’t even know it. At least not until it’s gone. A lot of us are into motorcycles — even more of us get into motorcycles after we retire. A couple of guys from my department got into gliders after retiring. Who gets into a plane without a motor unless you’re seeking a thrill? It took retirement — and missing the thrill that comes with a police career — to “finally do it.”

Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of the best cops are the ones that take the biggest chances. It’s not done intentionally — it’s usually done in the pursuit of criminals. We don’t put on our uniforms each day and consciously say to ourselves, “I think I’ll go out and risk my life today,” but the drive is always present. Ask your spouse and he or she will tell you, because it’s certainly on their minds.

Finding Balance
When your career is that of a police officer, you have to work extra hard to find a happy medium between thrill-seeking and serenity. An ancient Chinese scholar — or maybe it was that fat panda in the cartoon — once said, “We have to find balance in our lives”. If you constantly seek a bigger and better thrill, you may find yourself getting into trouble — maybe even on the wrong side of the law with drinking and driving, speeding, or worse. You might begin taking unnecessary risks, like not waiting for backup to arrive. 

Sometimes this manifests in our personal lives when we get involved in risky behavior off duty, like gambling, alcohol abuse, drugs, or having an affair and ruining your marriage.. 

To be clear — I’m not suggesting enjoying the thrill of police work means you’re headed down a path of personal ruin. But it’s important to understand that seeking to match the positive ‘high’ of policing can lead you into less positive alternatives. 

Helping Yourself and Others
My advice: accept that there’s an element of thrill seeking inherent to the profession and make a conscious decision how you’re going to deal with it, wherever you fall on the ‘thrill-seeking spectrum’.

If your level of thrill seeking is not as high as others, resist the temptation to bring the others down to your level by bad mouthing them and talking behind their backs. 

If you’re a supervisor, recognize the thrill seekers under your command and harness their energy. You may have to pull back on those reins from time to time, but don’t completely discourage it. Figure out a way to use those officers to motivate the ones that aren’t up to their level. Seek to obtain that balance that is so important in this job, to best serve your community. 

We are thrill seekers. Understand and accept it and you’ll be better off for it. You’ll realize you’ll need balance in your life —you can’t always be on the edge, and maybe what you’re doing isn’t the safest thing to do, and maybe you should wait for backup, or not participate in that off-duty activity. 

As always, be safe, and seek that balance in your life to make you not only the best officer you can be, but the best person you can be.

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